Is molasses good for chickens?
Molasses comes from sugar cane and is a biproduct of sugar production. While it contains vitamins and minerals, molasses is mostly just sugar.
Molasses is used in some chicken feeds and some chicken keepers also feed it to their birds as a supplement.
Why feed molasses to chickens?
There are a few reasons why manufacturers put molasses into chicken feed:
- As a source of nutrition or energy
- To make the feed sweeter and tastier for chickens
- To disguise off-flavours or sub-standard ingredients
- As a binder, especially in pellets
- To reduce dust
- To make powders, like vitamin and mineral supplements, stick to other feed ingredients
- Because it is cheap
Backyard chicken keepers who feed molasses to their birds usually use it as a supplement, for energy or nutrition, or to make feed more appealing to their birds.
Natural chicken keepers sometimes use molasses as a laxative, to "flush out toxins".
Is molasses good for chickens?
Molasses often contains high levels of essential nutrients including calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. Some studies have found it to improve the health of birds.
But even small amounts of molasses can cause problems. It really doesn't have a laxative effect on chickens! So unless that is what you are aiming for, we don't usually recommend feeding molasses to backyard chickens.
To begin with, molasses makes hens thirsty and increases water consumption. It also causes wetter, looser droppings - that's the laxative effect.
This means a messier chicken coop and more cleaning, not to mention more opportunities to spread parasites and disease between birds. Plus, both wetter dropping and the molasses itself will attract more flies and other unwanted insects to the chicken coop.
Some studies even suggest that molasses may actually decrease feed conversion, meaning your chickens eat more and gain fewer nutrients from the same feed.
And don't think that molasses is a good idea in the heat to encourage chickens to drink more. While chickens are thirstier and drink more after consuming molasses, it is a negative gain due to the water lost through those wet, messy droppings!
Can molasses flush out toxins?
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that toxins can be flushed out of the body by molasses.
However, the laxative effect is real. So if you had a chicken that had eaten something toxic, molasses could be used as an effective homemade flush to remove the item more quickly from their system. But we wouldn't rely on molasses to save a chicken from poisoning!
Molasses in feed versus molasses-coated feed – What’s the difference?
Molasses may be used as a binder in pelleted feeds. In this case, the feed will not be sticky and normally only a small amount of molasses is used.
But molasses-coated scratch grain is sometimes available.
Molasses or no molasses, even a ‘complete’ chicken scratch is about the unhealthiest chicken feed you can buy. We would never recommend it except as an occasional treat.
Don’t use molasses feeds in a Dine a Chook Feeder
We strongly recommend that you don’t use molasses feeds in a Dine a Chook Feeder. If the feed is a little bit sticky, as molasses chicken feeds often are, then they will interfere with the automatically filling silo. This means feed won’t funnel properly into the feeding bay.
The healthiest feed for laying hens is a complete layer pellet. Not only will this prevent the Feeder from clogging, your hens will get all of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that they need to be healthy and productive.
For more about a healthy diet for your chickens, check out these articles:
Happy chicken keeping!
Rachael at Dine a Chook